Scenario Based Seismic Hazard Analysis#

In case of Scenario Based Seismic Hazard Analysis, the engine simulates a set of ground motion fields (GMFs) at the target sites for the requested set of intensity measure types. This set of GMFs can then be used in Scenario Damage Assessment and Scenario Risk Assessment to estimate the distribution of potential damage, economic losses, fatalities, and other consequences. The scenario calculator is useful for simulating both historical and hypothetical earthquakes.

In case of Scenario Based Seismic Hazard Analysis, The input data consist of a single earthquake rupture model and one or more ground-motion models (GSIMs). Using the Ground Motion Field Calculator, multiple realizations of ground shaking can be computed, each realization sampling the aleatory uncertainties in the ground-motion model. The main calculator used to perform this analysis is the Ground Motion Field Calculator, which was already introduced during the description of the event based PSHA workflow (see Section Event based PSHA).

Starting from OpenQuake engine v3.16, it is possible to condition the ground shaking to observations, such as ground motion recordings and macroseismic intensity observations. The simulated ground motion fields are cross-spatially correlated, and can reduce considerably the uncertainty and bias in the resulting loss and damage estimates. The implementation of the conditioning of ground motion fields in the engine was performed following closely the procedure proposed by Engler et al. (2022).

As the scenario calculator does not need to determine the probability of occurrence of the specific rupture, but only sufficient information to parameterise the location (as a three-dimensional surface), the magnitude and the style-of-faulting of the rupture, a more simplified NRML structure is sufficient compared to the source model structures described in source typologies. A rupture model XML can be defined in the following formats:

  1. Simple Fault Rupture - in which the geometry is defined by the trace of the fault rupture, the dip and the upper and lower seismogenic depths. An example is shown in the listing below:

    <?xml version='1.0' encoding='utf-8'?>
    <nrml xmlns:gml=""
          <hypocenter lon="-122.02750" lat="37.61744" depth="6.7"/>
                -121.80236 37.39713
                -121.91453 37.48312
                -122.00413 37.59493
                -122.05088 37.63995
                -122.09226 37.68095
                -122.17796 37.78233
  2. Planar & Multi-Planar Rupture - in which the geometry is defined as a collection of one or more rectangular planes, each defined by four corners. An example of a multi-planar rupture is shown below in the listing below:

    <?xml version='1.0' encoding='utf-8'?>
    <nrml xmlns:gml=""
            <hypocenter lat="-1.4" lon="1.1" depth="10.0"/>
                <planarSurface strike="90.0" dip="45.0">
                    <topLeft lon="-0.8" lat="-2.3" depth="0.0" />
                    <topRight lon="-0.4" lat="-2.3" depth="0.0" />
                    <bottomLeft lon="-0.8" lat="-2.3890" depth="10.0" />
                    <bottomRight lon="-0.4" lat="-2.3890" depth="10.0" />
                <planarSurface strike="30.94744" dip="30.0">
                    <topLeft lon="-0.42" lat="-2.3" depth="0.0" />
                    <topRight lon="-0.29967" lat="-2.09945" depth="0.0" />
                    <bottomLeft lon="-0.28629" lat="-2.38009" depth="10.0" />
                    <bottomRight lon="-0.16598" lat="-2.17955" depth="10.0" />
  3. Complex Fault Rupture - in which the geometry is defined by the upper, lower and (if applicable) intermediate edges of the fault rupture. An example of a complex fault rupture is shown below in the listing below:

    <?xml version='1.0' encoding='utf-8'?>
    <nrml xmlns:gml=""
            <hypocenter lat="-1.4" lon="1.1" depth="10.0"/>
                            0.6 -1.5 2.0
                            1.0 -1.3 5.0
                            1.5 -1.0 8.0
                            0.65 -1.55 4.0
                            1.1  -1.4  10.0
                            1.5  -1.2  20.0
                            0.65 -1.7 8.0
                            1.1  -1.6 15.0
                            1.5  -1.7 35.0

The concept of “mean” ground motion field#

The engine has at least three different kinds of mean ground motion field, computed differently and used in different situations:

Mean ground motion field by GMPE, used to reduce disk space and make risk calculations faster.

Mean ground motion field by event, used for debugging/plotting purposes.

Single-rupture hazardlib mean ground motion field, used for analysis/plotting purposes.

Mean ground motion field by GMPE#

This is the most useful concept for people doing risk calculations. To be concrete, suppose you are running a scenario_risk calculation on a region where you have a very fine site model (say at 1 km resolution) and a sophisticated hazard model (say with 16 different GMPEs): then you can easily end up with a pretty large calculation. For instance one of our users was doing such a calculation with an exposure of 1.2 million assets, 50,000+ hazard sites, 5 intensity measure levels and 1000 simulations, corresponding to 16,000 events given that there are 16 GMPEs. Given that each ground motion value needs 4 bytes to be stored as a 32 bit float, the math tells us that such calculation will generate 50000 x 16000 x 5 x 4 ~ 15 GB of data (it could be a but less by using the minimum_intensity feature, but you get the order of magnitude). This is very little for the engine that can store such an amount of data in less than 1 minute, but it is a huge amount of data for a database. If you a (re)insurance company and your workflow requires ingesting the GMFs in a database to compute the financial losses, that’s a big issue. The engine could compute the hazard in just an hour, but the risk part could easily take 8 days. This is a no-go for most companies. They have deadlines and cannot way 8 days to perform a single analysis. At the end they are interested only in the mean losses, so they would like to have a single effective mean field producing something close to the mean losses that more correctly would be obtained by considering all 16 realizations. With a single effective realization the data storage would drop under 1 GB and more significantly the financial model software would complete the calculation in 12 hours instead of 8 days, something a lot more reasonable.

For this kind of situations hazardlib provides an AvgGMPE class, that allows to replace a set of GMPEs with a single effective GMPE. More specifically, the method AvgGMPE.get_means_and_stddevs calls the methods .get_means_and_stddevs on the underlying GMPEs and performs a weighted average of the means and a weighted average of the variances using the usual formulas:

\[\mu = \sum_{i}\omega_{i}\mu_{i}\]
\[\sigma^2 = \sum_{i}\omega_{i}(\sigma_{i})^2\]

where the weights sum up to 1. It is up to the user to check how big is the difference in the risk between the complete calculation and the mean field calculation. A factor of 2 discrepancies would not be surprising, but we have also seen situations where there is no difference within the uncertainty due to the random seed choice.

Mean ground motion field by event#

Using the AvgGMPE trick does not solve the issue of visualizing the ground motion fields, since for each site there are still 1000 events. A plotting tool has still to download 1 GB of data and then one has to decide which event to plot. The situation is the same if you are doing a sensitivity analysis, i.e. you are changing some parameter (it could be a parameter of the underlying rupture, or even the random seed) and you are studying how the ground motion fields change. It is hard to compare two sets of data of 1 GB each. Instead, it is a lot easier to define a “mean” ground motion field obtained by averaging on the events and then compare the mean fields of the two calculations: if they are very different, it is clear that the calculation is very sensitive to the parameter being studied. Still, the tool performing the comparison will need to consider 1000 times less data and will be 1000 times faster, also downloding 1000 times less data from the remote server where the calculation has been performed.

For this kind of analysis the engine provides an internal output avg_gmf that can be plotted with the command oq plot avg_gmf <calc_id>. It is also possible to compare two calculations with the command $ oq compare avg_gmf imt <calc1> <calc2> Since avg_gmf is meant for internal usage and for debugging it is not exported by default and it is not visible in the WebUI. It is also not guaranteed to stay the same across engine versions. It is available starting from version 3.11. It should be noted that, consistently with how the AvgGMPE works, the avg_gmf output is computed in log space, i.e. it is geometric mean, not the usual mean. If the distribution was exactly lognormal that would also coincide with the median field.

However, you should remember that in order to reduce the data transfer and to save disk space the engine discards ground motion values below a certain minimum intensity, determined explicitly by the user or inferred from the vulnerability functions when performing a risk calculation: there is no point in considering ground motion values below the minimum in the vulnerability functions, since they would generate zero losses. Discarding the values below the threshould breaks the log normal distribution.

To be concrete, consider a case with a single site, and single intensity measure type (PGA) and a minimum_intensity of 0.05g. Suppose there are 1000 simulations and that you have a normal distribution of the logarithms with \(\mu = -2.0, \sigma=.5\); then the ground motion values that you could obtain would be as follows:

>>> import numpy
>>> np.random.seed(42) # fix the seed
>>> gmvs = np.random.lognormal(mean=-2.0, sigma=.5, size=1000)

As expected, the variability of the values is rather large, spanning more than one order of magnitude:

>>> numpy.round([gmvs.min(), np.median(gmvs), gmvs.max()], 6)
array([0.026766, 0.137058, 0.929011])

Also mean and standard deviation of the logarithms are very close to the expected values \(\mu = -2.0, \sigma=.5\):

>>> round(np.log(gmvs).mean(), 6)
>>> round(np.log(gmvs).std(), 6)

The geometric mean of the values (i.e. the exponential of the mean of the logarithms) is very close to the median, as expected for a lognormal distribution:

>>> round(np.exp(np.log(gmvs).mean()), 6)

All these properties are broken when the ground motion values are truncated below the minimum_intensity:

>>> gmvs[gmvs < .05] = .05
>>> round(np.log(gmvs).mean(), 6)
>>> round(np.log(gmvs).std(), 6)
>>> round(np.exp(np.log(gmvs).mean()), 6)

In this case the difference is minor, but if the number of simulations is small and/or the \(\sigma\) is large the mean and standard deviation obtained from the logarithms of the ground motion fields could be quite different from the expected ones.

Finally, it should be noticed that the geometric mean can be orders of magnitude different from the usual mean and it is purely a coincidence that in this case they are close (~0.137 vs ~0.155).

Single-rupture estimated median ground motion field#

The mean ground motion field by event discussed above is an a posteriori output: after performing the calculation, some statistics are performed on the stored ground motion fields. However, in the case of a single rupture it is possible to estimate the geometric mean and the geometric standard deviation a priori, using hazardlib and without performing a full calculation. However, there are some limitations to this approach:

  1. it only works when there is a single rupture

  2. you have to manage the minimum_intensity manually if you want to compare with a concrete engine output

  3. it is good for estimates, it gives you the theoretical ground ground motion field but not the ones concretely generated by the engine fixed a specific seed

It should also be noticed that there is a shortcut to compute the single-rupture hazardlib “mean” ground motion field without writing any code; just set in your job.ini the following values:

truncation_level = 0
ground_motion_fields = 1

Setting truncation_level = 0 effectively replaces the lognormal distribution with a delta function, so the generated ground motion fields will be all equal, with the same value for all events: this is why you can set ground_motion_fields = 1, since you would just waste time and space by generating multiple copies.

Finally let’s warn again on the term hazardlib “mean” ground motion field: in log space it is truly a mean, but in terms of the original GMFs it is a geometric mean - which is the same as the median since the distribution is lognormal - so you can also call this the hazardlib median ground motion field.

Case study: GMFs for California#

We had an user asking for the GMFs of California on 707,920 hazard sites, using the UCERF mean model and an investigation time of 100,000 years. Is this feasible or not? Some back of the envelope calculations suggests that it is unfeasible, but reality can be different.

The relevant parameters are the following:

N = 707,920 hazard sites
E = 10^5 estimated events of magnitude greater then 5.5 in the investigation
    time of 100,000 years
B = 1 number of branches in the UCERF logic tree
G = 5 number of GSIMS in the GMPE logic tree
I = 6 number of intensity measure types
S1 = 13 number of bytes used by the engine to store a single GMV

The maximum size of generated GMFs is N * E * B * G * I * S1 = 25 TB (terabytes) Storing and sharing 25 TB of data is a big issue, so the problem seems without solution. However, most of the ground motion values are zero, because there is a maximum distance of 300 km and a rupture cannot affect all of the sites. So the size of the GMFs should be less than 25 TB. Moreover, if you want to use such GMFs for a damage analysis, you may want to discard very small shaking that will not cause any damage to your buildings. The engine has a parameter to discard all GMFs below a minimum threshold, the minimum_intensity parameter. The higher the threshold, the smaller the size of the GMFs. By playing with that parameter you can reduce the size of the output by orders of magnitudes. Terabytes could easily become gigabytes with a well chosen threshold.

In practice, we were able to run the full 707,920 sites by splitting the sites in 70 tiles and by using a minimum intensity of 0.1 g. This was the limit configuration for our cluster which has 5 machines with 128 GB of RAM each.

The full calculation was completed in only 4 hours because our calculators are highly optimized. The total size of the generated HDF5 files was of 400 GB. This is a lot less than 25 TB, but still too large for sharing purposes.

Another way to reduce the output is to reduce the number of intensity measure types. Currently in your calculations there are 6 of them (PGA, SA(0.1), SA(0.2), SA(0.5), SA(1.0), SA(2.0)) but if you restrict yourself to only PGA the computation and the output will become 6 times smaller. Also, there are 5 GMPEs: if you restrict yourself to 1 GMPE you gain a factor of 5. Similarly, you can reduce the investigation period from 100,000 year to 10,000 years, thus gaining another order of magnitude. Also, raising the minimum magnitude reduces the number of events significantly.

But the best approach is to be smart. For instance, we know from experience that if the final goal is to estimate the total loss for a given exposure, the correct way to do that is to aggregate the exposure on a smaller number of hazard sites. For instance, instead of the original 707,920 hazard sites we could aggregate on only ~7,000 hazard sites and we would a calculation which is 100 times faster, produces 100 times less GMFs and still produces a good estimate for the total loss.

In short, risk calculations for the mean field UCERF model are routines now, in spite of what the naive expectations could be.

Scenarios from ShakeMaps#

Beginning with version 3.1, the engine is able to perform scenario_risk and scenario_damage calculations starting from the GeoJSON feed for ShakeMaps provided by the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Furthermore, starting from version 3.12 it is possible to use ShakeMaps from other sources like the local filesystem or a custom URL.

Running the Calculation#

In order to enable this functionality one has to prepare a parent calculation containing the exposure and risk functions for the region of interest, say Peru. To that aim the user will need to write a prepare job.ini file like this one:

description = Peru - Preloading exposure and vulnerability
calculation_mode = scenario
exposure_file = exposure_model.xml
structural_vulnerability_file = structural_vulnerability_model.xml

By running the calculation:

$ oq engine --run prepare_job.ini

The exposure and the risk functions will be imported in the datastore.

This example only includes vulnerability functions for the loss type structural, but one could also have in this preparatory job file the functions for nonstructural components and contents, and occupants, or fragility functions if damage calculations are of interest.

It is essential that each fragility/vulnerability function in the risk model should be conditioned on one of the intensity measure types that are supported by the ShakeMap service – MMI, PGV, PGA, SA(0.3), SA(1.0), and SA(3.0). If your fragility/vulnerability functions involves an intensity measure type which is not supported by the ShakeMap system (for instance SA(0.6)) the calculation will terminate with an error.

Let’s suppose that the calculation ID of this ‘pre’ calculation is 1000. We can now run the risk calculation starting from a ShakeMap. For that, one need a job.ini file like the following:

description = Peru - 2007 M8.0 Pisco earthquake losses
calculation_mode = scenario_risk
number_of_ground_motion_fields = 10
truncation_level = 3
shakemap_id = usp000fjta
spatial_correlation = yes
cross_correlation = yes

This example refers to the 2007 Mw8.0 Pisco earthquake in Peru (see The risk can be computed by running the risk job file against the prepared calculation:

$ oq engine --run job.ini --hc 1000

Starting from version 3.12 it is also possible to specify the following sources instead of a shakemap_id:

# (1) from local files:
shakemap_uri = {
      "kind": "usgs_xml",
      "grid_url": "relative/path/file.xml",
      "uncertainty_url": "relative/path/file.xml"

# (2) from remote files:
shakemap_uri = {
      "kind": "usgs_xml",
      "grid_url": "",
      "uncertainty_url": ""

# (3) both files in a single archive
# containing grid.xml, uncertainty.xml:
shakemap_uri = {
      "kind": "usgs_xml",
      "grid_url": "relative/path/"

While it is also possible to define absolute paths, it is advised not to do so since using absolute paths will make your calculation not portable across different machines.

The files must be valid .xml USGS ShakeMaps (1). One or both files can also be passed as .zip archives containing a single valid xml ShakeMap (2). If both files are in the same .zip, the archived files must be named grid.xml and uncertainty.xml.

Also starting from version 3.12 it is possible to use ESRI Shapefiles in the same manner as ShakeMaps. Polygons define areas with the same intensity levels and assets/sites will be associated to a polygon if contained by the latter. Sites outside of a polygon will be discarded. Shapefile inputs can be specified similar to ShakeMaps:

shakemap_uri = {
   "kind": "shapefile",
   "fname": "path_to/file.shp"

It is only necessary to specify one of the available files, and the rest of the files will be expected to be in the same location. It is also possible to have them contained together in a .zip file. There are at least a .shp-main file and a .dbf-dBASE file required. The record field names, intensity measure types and units all need to be the same as with regular USGS ShakeMaps.

Irrespective of the input, the engine will perform the following operations:

  1. download the ShakeMap and convert it into a format suitable for further processing, i.e. a ShakeMaps array with lon, lat fields

  2. the ShakeMap array will be associated to the hazard sites in the region covered by the ShakeMap

  3. by using the parameters truncation_level and number_of_ground_motion_fields a set of ground motion fields (GMFs) following the truncated Gaussian distribution will be generated and stored in the datastore

  4. a regular risk calculation will be performed by using such GMFs and the assets within the region covered by the shakemap.


By default the engine tries to compute both the spatial correlation and the cross correlation between different intensity measure types. Please note that if you are using MMI as intensity measure type in your vulnerability model, it is not possible to apply correlations since those are based on physical measures.

For each kind of correlation you have three choices, that you can set in the job.ini, for a total of nine combinations:

- spatial_correlation = yes, cross_correlation = yes  # the default
- spatial_correlation = no, cross_correlation = no   # disable everything
- spatial_correlation = yes, cross_correlation = no
- spatial_correlation = no, cross_correlation = yes
- spatial_correlation = full, cross_correlation = full
- spatial_correlation = yes, cross_correlation = full
- spatial_correlation = no, cross_correlation = full
- spatial_correlation = full, cross_correlation = no
- spatial_correlation = full, cross_correlation = yes

yes means using the correlation matrix of the Silva-Horspool paper; no mean using no correlation; full means using an all-ones correlation matrix.

Apart from performance considerations, disabling either the spatial correlation or the cross correlation (or both) might be useful to see how significant the effect of the correlation is on the damage/loss estimates.

In particular, due to numeric errors, the spatial correlation matrix - that by construction contains only positive numbers - can still produce small negative eigenvalues (of the order of -1E-15) and the calculation fails with an error message saying that the correlation matrix is not positive defined. Welcome to the world of floating point approximation! Rather than magically discarding negative eigenvalues the engine raises an error and the user has two choices: either disable the spatial correlation or reduce the number of sites because that can make the numerical instability go away. The easiest way to reduce the number of sites is setting a region_grid_spacing parameter in the prepare_job.ini file, then the engine will automatically put the assets on a grid. The larger the grid spacing, the fewer the number of points, and the closer the calculation will be to tractability.

Performance Considerations#

The performance of the calculation will be crucially determined by the number of hazard sites. For instance, in the case of the Pisco earthquake the ShakeMap has 506,142 sites, which is a significantly large number of sites. However, the extent of the ShakeMap in longitude and latitude is about 6 degrees, with a step of 10 km the grid contains around 65 x 65 sites; most of the sites are without assets because most of the grid is on the sea or on high mountains, so actually there are around ~500 effective sites. Computing a correlation matrix of size 500 x 500 is feasible, so the risk computation can be performed.

Clearly in situations in which the number of hazard sites is too large, approximations will have to be made such as using a larger region_grid_spacing. Disabling spatial AND cross correlation makes it possible run much larger calculations. The performance can be further increased by not using a truncation_level.

When applying correlation, a soft cap on the size of the calculations is defined. This is done and modifiable through the parameter cholesky_limit which refers to the number of sites multiplied by the number of intensity measure types used in the vulnerability model. Raising that limit is at your own peril, as you might run out of memory during calculation or may encounter instabilities in the calculations as described above.

If the ground motion values or the standard deviations are particularly large, the user will get a warning about suspicious GMFs.

Moreover, especially for old ShakeMaps, the USGS can provide them in a format that the engine cannot read.

Thus, this feature is not expected to work in all cases.

The concept of “mean” ground motion field The engine has at least three different kinds of mean ground motion field, computed differently and used in different situations:

Mean ground motion field by GMPE, used to reduce disk space and make risk calculations faster.

Mean ground motion field by event, used for debugging/plotting purposes.

Single-rupture hazardlib mean ground motion field, used for analysis/plotting purposes.